Articles Posted in U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

by
Plaintiffs brought civil claims against the sitting president of Sri Lanka under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), 28 U.S.C. 1350. On appeal, plaintiffs contended that the president was not immune from civil suit under the TVPA. Because, as a consequence of the State Department's suggestion of immunity, the president was entitled to head of state immunity under the common law while he remained in office, and because the TVPA did not abrogate that common law immunity, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint. View "Manoharan, et al v. Rajapaksa" on Justia Law

by
Peter Knowland sued Syria, Libya, and a number of Syrian and Libyan individuals and organizations for sponsoring and supporting the terrorist attacks on international flight terminals in Rome and Vienna on December 27, 1985. Knowland was injured in the Vienna attack. The district court dismissed the case as untimely, and Knowland's legal representative appealed. Because Knowland filed suit after the statute of limitations had run pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605A, his only hope of obtaining judicial relief depended on his ability to invoke the "related action" provision. Knowland argued that his suit was related to Estate of Buonocore v. Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, a suit against many of the same defendants for their alleged support of the Rome attack. The court concluded that the Vienna and Rome attacks constituted the same incident and thus Buonocore put defendants on notice that they could be liable for the Vienna attack. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Beneden v. Al-Sanusi, et al" on Justia Law

by
Appellant alleged that the District of Columbia violated rights conferred upon him by Article 36(1)(b) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Apr. 24, 1963, 21 U.S.T. 77, 101, 596 U.N.T.S. 261. Appellant is a national of Jamaica and currently incarcerated in a federal penitentiary. Assuming without deciding that Article 36(1)(b) conferred individually enforceable rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the court concluded that appellant's suit was untimely. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the District of Columbia. View "Earle v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

by
This case arose when some Ecuadorian citizens sued Chevron in an Ecuador court, alleging that Chevron was responsible for environmental damage there. As the proceedings in Ecuador unfolded, Chevron sued the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their attorneys in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claiming that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their attorneys had committed fraud in the proceedings in Ecuador. As part of the New York litigation, Chevron subpoenaed documents from the Weinberg Group and the subpoena was issued from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Weinberg Group asserted the attorney-client and work product privileges over some of the documents responsive to the subpoena. Chevron moved to compel production of those documents in the D.C. district court. The D.C. district court found that the crime-fraud exception applied and granted Chevron's motion to compel, relying almost entirely on a decision in favor of Chevron by the New York district court in the underlying fraud investigation. The court concluded that, given that the D.C. district court relied on the decision of the New York district court and that the New York district court's decision was subsequently reversed by the Second Circuit, the court must vacate the D.C. district court's decision and remand. View "Chevron Corp. v. Weinberg Group" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a breach of contract action seeking over $12 million from the Royal Family Al-Saud and sixteen of its members (collectively, defendants) for failing to pay him for artwork he alleged they commissioned. Plaintiff had designed 29 sculptures for the Royal Family in 2006 and 2007. Defendants kept the sculptures but never paid plaintiff for any of them. Plaintiff attempted to serve process on defendants by mailing a copy of the summons and complaint to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, where plaintiff ordinarily communicated with defendants in past instances, but the Embassy refused to accept the first class mailing. The district court dismissed the pro se complaint for failure to prosecute under Local Civil Rule 83.23 because plaintiff failed to serve process on defendants pursuant to FRCP 4(f). The court held that, viewing all of the circumstances - the reasonable probability that plaintiff could obtain service on at least one of the defendants, plaintiff's dogged attempts to effect service of process and the district court's failure to provide "a form of notice sufficiently understandable to one in [plaintiff's] circumstances fairly to apprise him of what is required" to serve process, and to provide notice of the consequences of failing to serve process - the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the complaint. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View " Angellino v. Royal Family Al-Saud, et al." on Justia Law

by
GSS Group brought this action to confirm a foreign arbitration award against the Port Authority of Liberia. The district court dismissed the petition for lack of personal jurisdiction after concluding that the Port Authority did not have sufficient contacts with the United States. The court concluded that the Port Authority claimed to be an independent juridical entity in its motion to dismiss, and GSS Group failed to contest that characterization. GSS Group's omission left in tact the Bancec presumption, First National City Bank v. Banco Para el Comercio Exterior de Cuba, which, under TMR Energy v. State Property Fund of Ukraine, guaranteed the Port Authority treatment as a separate "person" entitled to due process protection. That protection included the right to assert a minimum contacts defense. GSS Group had not identified any connection between the Port Authority and the United States and conceded that none existed. Therefore, the district court correctly dismissed the petition for lack of personal jurisdiction. View "GSS Group Ltd v. National Port Authority" on Justia Law

by
McKesson, a United States company, claimed that after the Islamic Revolution, the government of Iran expropriated McKesson's interest in an Iranian dairy (Pak Dairy) and withheld its dividend payments. McKesson filed its complaint in 1982, the case reached the court on five prior occasions, and was remanded by the court for numerous trials by the district court. At issue was whether the court had jurisdiction over McKesson's claim and whether any recognized body of law provided McKesson with a private right of action against Iran. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the act of state doctrine did not apply in this case. While the court reversed the district court's holding that McKesson could base its claim on customary international law, the court affirmed the district court's alternative holding that the Treaty of Amity, construed as Iranian law, provided McKesson with a private right of action, and the court further affirmed the district court's finding that Iran was liable for the expropriation of McKesson's equity interest in Pak Dairy and the withholding of McKesson's dividend payments. Finally, the court reversed the district court's award of compound interest and remanded for calculation of an award consisting of the value of McKesson's expropriated property and withheld dividends plus simple interest. View "McKesson Corp., et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, Chapour Bakhtiar's family members, asserted that Iran was responsible for Bakhtiar's murder and filed suit in U.S. District Court against Iran and an Iranian government agency. Plaintiffs brought claims under California tort law. Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1604, foreign nations were generally immune from suit in U.S. courts, but plaintiffs were able to maintain their case under the Act's exception for state-sponsored terrorism under section 1605(a)(7). At issue on appeal was whether plaintiffs could obtain punitive damages in their state-law tort suit against Iran without complying with the congressionally specified procedures for seeking punitive damages against a foreign nation. The court concluded that, for plaintiffs with suits pending against foreign nations as of January 28, 2008, Congress provided three options for obtaining the benefits of section 1605A and seeking punitive damages: a motion to convert the action, a refiling of the action or the filing of a related action. Because plaintiffs did not pursue any of these statutorily provided options, plaintiffs could not obtain punitive damages from Iran. The court considered all of plaintiffs' arguments and found them without merit. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Bakhtiar, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al." on Justia Law

by
The Republic of Argentina appealed the denial of its motion to vacate an arbitral award on the principal ground that the arbitral panel exceeded its authority by ignoring the terms of the parties' agreement. The court held that where, as here, the result of the arbitral award was to ignore the terms of the Bilateral Investment Treaty - between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Argentina - and shifted the risk that the Argentine courts might not resolve BG Group's claim within eighteen months pursuant to Article 8(2) of the Treaty, the arbitral panel rendered a decision wholly based on outside legal sources and without regard to the contracting parties' agreement establishing a precondition to arbitration. Accordingly, the court reversed the orders denying the motion to vacate and granting the cross-motion to confirm, and vacated the Final Award. View "Republic of Argentina v. BG Group PLC" on Justia Law

by
This case involved a petition to confirm and enforce a foreign arbitration award against the Government of Belize pursuant to section 207 of the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 207. The facts underlying the issuance of the challenged stay order involved a telecommunication agreement with the government of Belize. Plaintiff appealed an order staying the proceeding pending the outcome of related litigation in Belize. The court concluded that the stay order as issued exceeded the proper exercise of authority of the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Belize Social Dev. Ltd. v. Government of Belize" on Justia Law